New York! New York!

Journalist Tom Wolfe once said, “One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”

I realized how true that statement is when I first visited New York a couple of years ago. As a diehard fan of popular sitcoms such as Gossip Girl and Sex and the City, a vacation in New York was a dream come true for me! Like most other 20-year-old girls, I wanted to see the spot where Blair met Chuck for the first time, eat at the places where Carrie and her girls went for brunch and ofcourse, visit the store where Bradshaw found her famous Manola Blahnik’s. Everything about New York fascinated me – the people, food, culture — even the song, Empire State of Mind.

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Photo Credit – http://www.newyorker.com

The first thing that strikes you between New York is the city’s enthusiastic vibe. It’s fast-paced yet relaxing. A true melting pot, it is stuffed with ambitious people who populate its five boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island. More than the dream of New York that I had built up in my mind, it was the awe-inspiring splendor that took my breath away. From tall skyscrapers to subways, every little thing was magnificent.

Food Matters!
New York is a paradise for food lovers. – my day would usually begin with a cream cheese bagel and a cup of hot chocolate. Food trucks line every corner, making it impossible to miss out on the city’s renowned fast food. But, if you still need recommendations, here’s what you should try out:
– Cart Food: New York is known for its cart food, which basically serves you large portions of meat and rice, flavoured with sauces. Available into the wee hours of the night, it is filling, delicious and pocket-friendly. The best and most popular cart food is available at The Halal Guys.
– Max Brenner: A renowned chocolate bar and restaurant located at Union Square, this is a paradise for chocoholics. A few friends and I walked into Max Brenner for a cup of hot chocolate and walked out with a 12-inch chocolate pizza, topped with chocolate chips and marshmallows!
– Chipotle: This is, by far my favourite Mexican chain. A filing burrito at Chipotle is the perfect way to end a tiring day.

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Photo Credit – http://www.maxbrenner.com

Fashion Forward:
Draw up a list of fashion capitals of the world and New York is bound to be somewhere close to the top. Some of the world’s most popular stylists, designers and fashionistas hail from here. From walking to Soho empty-handed and returning with a handful of bags, to sitting at a café, wishfully looking at people splurging on high-end brands in Park Avenue, New York has something for everyone. Other popular shopping hubs include Macy’s, China Town and Canal Street.

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Photo Credit – http://www.walldevil.com

Slice of Culture:
New York has a number of museums and art centers, but the most popular is undoubtedly the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, popularly known as the MET. I was stoked to see the amount of creativity that was on display – it houses the world’s finest modern and contemporary art. If you’re an art enthusiast, this place is a must-visit for a dose of inspiration.

Entertainment Ahoy!:
From musicals to live street performances, sports to shopping, bar hopping to sit-down meals, you won’t run out of things to do in New York. I watched The Phantom of the Opera, an award-winning musical at the Majestic Theatre. Of course, Times Square is a spot you can’t miss visiting – the large billboards, flashing lights and the energy will leave you amazed. New York’s many parks such as Central Park and Union Square Park are other great places to while away your time. My favourite pastime was to walk through, or simply read a book at the park.

The Tourist Trail:
Even the tourist attractions in New York, which you wouldn’t think would really surprise you, can leave you with long-lasting memories. On my way to the Statue of Liberty, I spent some time at Battery Park, which is the port from where the ferries set off. While I was there, I stumbled upon Castle Clinton and a couple of artists who offered caricatures on the spot. The caricature I had drawn of myself is undoubtedly my most precious souvenir. As for the Statue of Liberty? Well, I was lucky enough to head there late afternoon, where I was treated to a fabulous display of the setting sun on one hand and the Statue of Liberty standing tall on the other. Other must-visit tourist spots are The Rockefeller Centre, Grand Central Terminal, Yankee Stadium, Chelsea Market, Harlem and the 9/11 Memorial.

With its architectural assets, vintage cafes, boutiques and novelty shops, New York City is a serious treat for every traveler. It’s the sort of place where getting lost will only help you find something new. It allows you to dream as high as its skyscrapers and then helps to convert them into reality. I now know what Simone de Beauvoir meant when she said, “There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.”

FYI
– Unlike Mumbai, New York is extremely strict about following road discipline. You cannot run across an empty street at a red light – yes, the pedestrian ones that we normally ignore in our city.

– A basic understanding of the grid system is helpful if you wish to travel independently. Finding your way around the city becomes easy once you master this. An important thing to remember is that avenues run North and South, while streets run East and West.

– While local buses, taxis and tubes make commuting within the city convenient, having experienced all, I think walking was the best option – more so for the experience than for the ease of travel. I came across and struck up conversations with several people during my walks and some ended up becoming acquaintances!

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